Filipino singer and actress Charice Pempengco, who played exchange student Sunshine Corazon in the hit series Glee, has told talk show host Boy Abunda on Filipino television station The Buzz that she is a lesbian.
“Yes, I am a lesbian,” she said in her native Tagalog, in response to the direct question. "Now, I feel free. I can go out of the house without fear and be certain that I'm not stepping on anybody's toes."Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The announcement came after speculation surrounding the 21-year-old star’s sexual orientation swirled in the local press in recent weeks, following her decision to shed her teen starlet look, cutting her once long locks in favor of short, dyed hair.
Charice was originally discovered on YouTube by Ellen DeGeneres who asked her to perform on her show in 2007. Since then, she has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and has sung alongside Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.
Following her decision to come out, she thanked her supportive fans in a video that shows her relief. “Honestly, I’m very, very happy,” she said. “I can’t explain how happy I am right now hearing all these positive things.”
"Dear @OfficialCharice have you any idea how many young people you inspired today? More power, blessings and love to you!" tweeted Leah Salonga (@MsLeaSalonga), a Tony award-winning Filipina actress and singer.
“So Charice is out of the closet. Did that take her talent away? Did it change her voice? NO. Same talented person, just happier,” tweeted local celebrity Bubbles Paraiso (@bubblesparaiso).
Similar support came from overseas. “So proud of you!” tweeted American celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. “You are opening doors and hearts and minds with your bravery and honesty! Leading by example! BIG HUG!”
While the outpouring of support for Charice has been significant, it has not been universal in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, where conservative views on LGBT issues often color public discourse.
No less than Manny Pacquaiao, Filipino boxing legend-cum-politician and entrepreneur extraordinaire, has made comments that reflect the attitude of the conservative strain in Filipino society.
"God only expects man and woman to be together and to be legally married, only if they so are in love with each other,” he said in May 2012. “It should not be of the same sex so as to adulterate the altar of matrimony, like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah of Old.”
In the case of Charice, perhaps most notably of all, she told Abunda on The Buzz that she was estranged from her mother. For those who may not understand her, she is empathetic.
"I have deep gratitude for the Filipinos because they are the ones who know who I really am,” she told Abunda on The Buzz. “I don't know what the problem is because for me, there is no problem with that. So now I ask for forgiveness from those who don't understand. And those who cannot accept. I apologize: I understand you."
She added: "I just want to say to all of you that I feel very light – that I can leave the house knowing I am not hiding anything. I love myself, that's why I'm able to do this.”